Ethics Investigation Into Elaine Chao Cites Concerns

Elias Hubbard
Марта 4, 2021

The investigators found that Chao had used her staff to make extensive arrangements in 2017 for the planned trip to China, which was canceled just before her planned departure after ethics concerns were raised. That company does extensive business with China.

"In this letter explaining the actions of their office, inspector general's office says they started an investigation into Elaine Chao in 2019 and decided some of the allegations were serious and substantive enough they required a criminal referral to the Justice Department and made that referral based on the findings of the investigation", said Maddow.

Chao also tasked political appointees on her staff to contact the Department of Homeland Security regarding the status of a work permit application for a student studying at a US university who was a recipient of her family's philanthropic foundation.

"Above all, let's keep [the secretary] happy", one of the department's employees wrote to another staffer regarding Chao's father.

The investigation noted the trip was scheduled to include stops at locations in China that received financial support from her family's company and also a meeting with "top leaders" in China that was scheduled to include her father and sister but not other members of the Transportation Department staff. "If Dr. Chao is happy, then we should be flying with a feather in our hat".

The report also found DOT staff "provided various media and public affairs support" to Chao's father in 2017 and 2018, including facilitating the booking of a private Amtrak auto for Chao's father and guests to travel from NY to Washington for a DOT event.

Chao, the wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (left) of Kentucky, stepped down from her job early this year in the last weeks of the Trump administration, citing her disapproval over the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol by Trump's supporters.

The report said the inspector general's 'preliminary review revealed other potential misuses of position that warranted additional review'.

Rep. Peter A. DeFazio (D-Ore.), chairman of the House Transportation Committee, who requested the investigation, expressed disappointment that the review was not completed and released while Chao was still in office. The internal watchdog cited Chao for four kinds of ethics violations, including requiring DOT's staff to help with personal errands and with marketing her father's biography.

'Public servants, especially those responsible for leading tens of thousands of other public servants, must know that they serve the public and not their family's private commercial interests, ' he said.

Chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio of OR and Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform Carolyn B. Maloney of NY also requested an investigation into Chao following initial media reports.

Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, announced her resignation January 7, the day after the Capitol riot.

The report also found no basis to investigate Chao's holdings in Vulcan Materials, a large stone and asphalt producer that has received federal grants. She was previously the labor secretary under former President George W. Bush.

Then-Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao speaks to reporters outside the West Wing of the White House following President Donald Trump's signing of the executive order supporting the transition of active duty service members and military veterans into the Merchant Marine, Monday, March 4, 2019, in Washington.

The student, according to the report, had interviewed Elaine Chao's father, James Chao, at the NY headquarters of the family's shipping company in order to share James Chao's experience "with Chinese millennials".

A spokesman for McConnell declined to comment.

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